Sobriety Tests for Cannabis Technology Advancing

Sobriety tests for those under the influence of marijuana need to be more efficient and the the faster the technology is developed, the better. Researchers did take a step closer in creating a means to add in a component to the testing that indicates how long ago THC entered the system. Still, that is not necessarily a full proof way of discovering if someone is impaired beyond their ability to drive or work heavy machinery.

Police will tolerate up to a .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) within a person’s system when driving and a .04% BAC for commercial drivers. It stands to reason then that some amount of active THC in someone’s system should be tolerated. As of now the only suggestion is really to do some sort of field sobriety test to accompany a breathalyzer.

Federal researchers at a Colorado lab of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have figured out how to measure the vapor pressure of THC, one of the main psychoactive chemicals in cannabis. The discovery means law enforcement officers could someday test for cannabis impairment based on a person’s breath.

The traditional tests for cannabis use — blood draws and urine samples — do an adequate job of detecting the past THC usage. But they aren’t very good at figuring out whether someone is currently impaired by THC. Some states, like Washington, allow police officers to test drivers for a cannabis-related DUI by drawing their blood. But traces of THC can stay in the bloodstream of regular consumers for up to seven days, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Employers have run into a similar dilemma. Out of fear of workplace accidents, rejected insurance claims and lawsuits, many businesses in legal states continue to screen their employees for marijuana use. But testing positive for THC isn’t the same as being impaired; conflating the two raises privacy questions. So long as nurses and forklift operators shows up to work sober, should their employers have a say over what they do in their free time?

These findings, published in the latest issue of Forensic Chemistry, come from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a branch of the Department of Commerce.

If you know how much pressure is produced by ethanol vapor, you can figure out how much ethanol is left in the bottle based on properties of those gases. The same logic applies for THC leaving a human body in exhaled breath. This chemistry can be used to create an ethanol breathalyzer. But scientists have previously struggled to figure out the vapor pressure of THC, which is a relatively complex molecule.

For those without much of a chemistry background, this can be confusing science. But it has a stunning range of applications. In the past, Lovestead has investigated food spoilage by examining the vapors above rotting chicken. She’s also studied the gases left over after a fire —the composition of which can help law-enforcement determine if a blaze resulted from arson.

Lovestead thinks it will still be a while before cops and employers have a real, working cannabis breathalyzer.

“THC alone is probably not a good marker” of cannabis intoxication, she said, citing a number of other chemicals, including CBD, which she suggested might also need to be measured. She also points out that cops will need more than just a measurement itself; they’ll need to figure out the how those numbers relate to real-world impairment. She thinks other methods, like field sobriety tests, will help fill in that picture.

Still, scientists have cracked at least one of the puzzles necessary to build a cannabis breathalyzer. The time range — vapor readings can show THC ingestion within the last 30 minutes to two hours, according to the paper — makes it a far more practical tool for situations like possible cannabis DUIs. But this government push to create a better device for testing cannabis impairment suffers from one ironic setback. The Drug Enforcement Agency continues to treat cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Although Lovestead could walk into a dispensary anywhere in Colorado and legally a joint, as a federal researcher, it was tricky for her to get the permissions necessary to study cannabis.

Still, scientists have cracked at least one of the puzzles necessary to build a cannabis breathalyzer. The time range — vapor readings can show THC ingestion within the last 30 minutes to two hours, according to the paper — makes it a far more practical tool for situations like possible cannabis DUIs. But this government push to create a better device for testing cannabis impairment suffers from one ironic setback. The Drug Enforcement Agency continues to treat cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Although Lovestead could walk into a dispensary anywhere in Colorado and legally a joint, as a federal researcher, it was tricky for her to get the permissions necessary to study cannabis.

 

The post Sobriety Tests for Cannabis Technology Advancing appeared first on Marijuana News.

Source: MJFeed

Leave A Comment